With an estimated 65,000 deaths annually in America, as a direct result of drug overdoses, there’s no question that an alternative must be found, to counter this frightening epidemic.
Firstly, let’s understand a little bit about one of the groups of drugs responsible for these deaths, namely, opioids. To understand their history, and how this epidemic is standing at the shocking numbers reported by numerous drug and addiction agencies.
Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects in humans. They have been prescribed en-masse by doctors since the early 1990’s to ‘help’ more than 100 million Americans who reportedly suffer from chronic pain.
Opioids on the market today, which are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across the U.S., include, at the weaker level, Codeine, moving up in strength to Vicodin, Kadian, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percoset, and possibly the worst culprit of all, Fentanyl, among others.
Big Pharma & The Doctors
As noted, back in the 90’s, doctors we persuaded that the solution for their patients’ aches and pains was to prescribe them strong opioids to numb them. Naturally, big pharma took full advantage of this new trend, and via huge marketing campaigns encouraged doctors to prescribe pills such as OxyContin and Percocet in huge numbers, even though they knew these drugs had serious side effects and were highly addictive. The fact these drugs are a multi-billion dollar money-maker for the pharmaceutical companies who produce them also speaks volumes about the larger issue.
As these opioids made people feel so good (and numb) they naturally found their way onto the streets and into the nervous systems of thousands of teenagers and kids, as well as adults. How easy it is to pop a few pills from your parents medicine cabinet, if you’re that way inclined.
Already by 2015, opioid overdoses topped 33,000 a year, and finally, people started asking some vital questions.
The Opioid Overdose Epidemic
While official numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2016 are to become available only later this year, the figures we already have are shocking beyond belief.
For now, we know officially that between 59,000 to 65,000 people died from overdoses last year alone, as this chart illustrates:
On top of that, it is estimated that over the past 16 years, more than 183,000 Americans have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
According to a Chicago Tribune article on this subject, abuse of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin killed 17,536, an increase of 4 percent in 2016. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this. Certainly not in modern times,” said Robert Anderson, who oversees death statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This graph, published by NIH, notes the upturn in deaths from opioids between 2002-2015, and highlights the problem further:
It is also noted that when it comes to opioid addiction, things are anything but simple. That may be why, according to asam.org: “Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic”
Medical Cannabis as a Solution?
With the overwhelming evidence presented here, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that prescription opioids are bad news, even if they do dull pain for a while.
So what about a natural, holistic remedy which helps thousands of people around the world to manage their chronic pain?
Let’s look at some facts:
A report from a few years ago, carried out by procon.org, entitled “Deaths from Marijuana v. 17 FDA-Approved Drugs”, found Interestingly, among all the talk of opioid overdoses, that, in stark contrast to opioids, medical cannabis accounted for ZERO primary suspect deaths by overdose:
|F. TOTALS of A-E||Primary Suspect||Secondary Suspect
(Contributing to death)
|Total Deaths Reported
1/1/97 – 6/30/05
|TOTAL DEATHS FROM MARIJUANA||0||279||279|
|TOTAL DEATHS FROM 17 FDA-APPROVED DRUGS||10,008||1,679||11,687|
With such stark contrast between the numbers, with medical cannabis being responsible for no deaths and few side effects, while opioids are responsible for thousands of deaths a year, these statistics can no longer be ignored.
Now, people are starting to look into the research which suggests that not only could medical cannabis be a safer and non-addictive alternative for pain than opioids, but that CBD, a compound found in cannabis, could actually help people directly with opioid withdrawal, as well as pain relief.
Opioid Withdrawal and CBD
A fascinating report on this topic, explains that CBD (Cannabidiol), a cannabinoid found in medical cannabis, has been shown in preclinical trials to deactivate opioid receptors. This means that people suffering from opioid withdrawal could ease the symptoms more successfully using CBD.
A study on animals, published by Ren and colleagues, showed that CBD can have a significant effect on those suffering from opioid withdrawal, and is a healthier and safer option than methadone. For starters, CBD has a long half-life, as long as two weeks in some subjects, while methadone needs to be administered daily due to withdrawals.
The same study also demonstrated that CBD was seen to inhibit the reward-facilitating effect of morphine, while low doses of cannabidiol did not affect brain stimulation.
In another milestone study, carried out by Manini and Co., the only one of its kind to be carried out on humans, conclusions were reached that CBD could help ease withdrawal symptoms from drugs like fentanyl, concluding that:
“Cannabidiol does not exacerbate adverse effects associated with intravenous fentanyl administration. Coadministration of CBD and opioids was safe and well tolerated. These data provide the foundation for future studies examining CBD as a potential treatment for opioid abuse.”
Recent Evidence For CBD
As recently as just a few months ago, two studies were carried out, looking at the effect of CBD on sufferers of chronic pain.
The first study, entitled “Cannabis and intractable chronic pain,” carried out by Dr Fanelli and Co. on 614 Italian patients, presented some very interesting findings regarding the role of CBD, as well as THC, in treating untraceable pain. The study also discusses the role of opioids, and the damaging effect they have long term on the human body.
The second study, entitled, “Cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs – a cross-sectional study“, by JM Corroon and partners, found that medical cannabis was a good substitute for a whole host of prescriptions medications, not least that it controlled pain for many people, and helped them in weaning off of opioids and other prescription painkillers.
Learn more about these two studies in our special report: Can Medical Cannabis Combat Chronic Pain & Reduce Prescription Drug Use.
With all the medical research now available for cannabis, one only need take a cursory glance at PubMed, where all medical papers are published, to see that more than 25,000 solid medical studies have already been carried out on cannabis. By contrast, way less medical research has been published for drugs like opioids, Ritalin and Adderall, with some of those drugs having only a few thousand research papers published.
This all means that the future looks bright for chronic pain sufferers, as well as those battling with pharmaceutical addictions, often entered into unwittingly at the behest of a commission-based doctor.
It is hoped that more research will be carried out in the future, to offer patients the very best, most natural, and least harmful alternatives to opioid drugs to treat their chronic pain.
[Image credit: Pixabay]